Manifesto demands stronger support for community energy
A coalition of 20 charities, green campaigners and community energy groups has published a new manifesto calling for stronger support for community energy schemes to help improve their dwindling prospects.
Several of its supporters, including the Friends Provident Foundation and the Joseph Roundtree Charitable Trust, have also written a letter to Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry to draw attention to their demands.
“The UK government is consulting on the design of the future energy system, to determine new rules and regulations around how we buy, sell and manage our energy,” the letter states.
“It is vital that the voices of community energy groups are heard and that the value they can bring is fully considered in these plans.”
The manifesto highlights the government’s 2014 strategy for a million homes to powered by community energy by 2020, adding: “Four years on, that vision has been abandoned with only 67,000 homes powered by community energy.”
It says the scrapping of the strategy in 2015 and the subsequent reduction of feed-in tariffs have left community energy groups “struggling to develop viable projects”. At least 66 such schemes stalled or failed in 2017.
With the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme set to be axed in April, the manifesto urges the government to open up an alternative route to market, possibly through “subsidy-free” contracts for difference (CfD) auctions for onshore wind and solar.
Public sector energy buyers could also be encouraged to enter power purchase agreements with community energy groups, while the supplier hub model could be reformed to allow them to become local energy suppliers.
It says the RIIO price controls should provide incentives for system operators at both the transmission and distribution levels to support community energy schemes when procuring capacity or flexibility services.
Furthermore, the manifesto says community energy groups should be helped to participate in local innovation trials, for which most funding currently goes to industry incumbents. To overcome their “knowledge gaps” and “lack of access to professional expertise”, they should be supported by a “well-resourced” body such as the Community Energy Hub.
To encourage local ownership, the manifesto says commercial developers should be required to allow community groups to buy stakes in their energy projects. Meanwhile, the benefits they offer the local community should be given “material weight” in planning applications.
In the absence of feed-in tariffs, social investment tax relief should be reinstated for community energy schemes to replace some of the lost revenues. Where appropriate, community energy groups should lead the development of local energy efficiency programmes.
Among the signatories to the manifesto are the Green Alliance, Co-op Energy and Regen.